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The power of teamwork to improve your thinking

The power of teamwork to improve your thinking | THINKERS Notebook
What will be the most important skills needed to succeed in the future?

This answer often gets boiled down into a simple statement like: humans need to be good at the stuff machines don't do well.

And that's correct.

If something can be automated or solved with machine learning, it will be. Humans will not be able to add value to these types of tasks. 

This is why the two specific skills that get brought up when we talk about the future are critical and creative thinking.

While machines can already run circles around us when it comes to organizing large data sets, and new developments in A.I. actually enable machines to produce text that is indistinguishable from humans, humans are still needed to evaluate the data or to tell a story in a new way.

But there is a skill we'll all need to be able to succeed in the future that often gets overlooked. It affects our ability to think both critically and creatively. It is uniquely human.

In fact, the way our species evolved to select for this skill over thousands and thousands of years is one of the main reasons we're still around and that we were able to rise to the top of the food chain.

It's our ability to work well in teams, our ability to thrive in small groups.

Being good at working in teams requires us to lean on so many important elements of our humanity -- few of which computers are anywhere close to replicating.


Working well in teams helps us to think more critically and more creatively than we ever could on our own.

Our thinking has the chance to grow, improve, and evolve when it comes into contact with the thoughts and ideas of other people, and more diverse ideas leads to a higher likelihood of a better solution.

I was reminded of this when I had a conversation this week with Ed Hess, author of the book Hyper-Learning: How to Adapt to the Speed of Change. (You may remember Ed from a previous edition of this newsletter, when I wrote about his book Humility is the New Smart.)

If you want to learn how to prepare yourself for the technological changes that are reshaping our world, I highly recommend Ed's books.

In this week's edition of the THINKERS Roundup, you'll find three articles that will help you understand the value of working in teams and how to be better at it.

Diversity is the path to better team performance in the future


According to American Sociological Review, companies reporting the highest levels of racial diversity in their organizations bring in nearly 15 times more sales revenue than those with lowest levels. With the trend of globalization, international talents mobility continues. By 2065, no racial or ethnic group will be a majority and therefore there will be no US corporations that have employees consisting of a single race.

We can expect that there will be more culturally diverse teams in the workplace in the future.

Read: How to build a high performing team for the future (TTI Success Insights)

Team diversity isn't just about identity and background, it's also about role and experience


Create teams that include employees from all parts of the organization. For example, if the marketing department is working on a new strategy, include members from sales and product development. While these people may not be marketing experts, the team will benefit from their knowledge and create a more well-rounded strategy.

Watch: The Future of Work Relies on Your Developing These 5 Team Skills (Entrepreneur)

Teamwork helps us think better


Albert Einstein gets all the credit for discovering the theory of relativity, but the truth is that he relied on conversations with friends and colleagues to refine his concept. And that’s almost always the case.

“Behind every genius is a team,” says Murphy. “When people play off each other’s skills and knowledge, they can create solutions that are practical and useful.”

Read: The importance of teamwork (as proven by science) (Atlassian)
Quote of the week

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

-- Charles Darwin


How can technology help us become better thinkers?

How can technology help us become better thinkers? | THINKERS Notebook
"Back when I was on Twitter ... "

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to host a webinar for THINKERS Workshop members with Alan Jacobs, author of the book How to Think.

During our conversation, Mr. Jacobs uttered those words about Twitter while discussing the influence social media can have on the ways we think.

My immediate response in the moment was to think, "Gosh, wouldn't that be nice. To be off Twitter."

Your immediate response to me sharing that might be: "Okay, then do it. Get off Twitter. You have agency in the decision."

And you'd be right, of course. But the fantasy isn't always enabled by the reality.

I use Twitter as an integral part of the work I do. Plus there are benefits of learning and enjoyment that I extract from it. So while it's easy to focus on the obvious negatives, Twitter's overall effect is far from being all negative.

The most important question is: can I manage my use of Twitter to maximize its benefits while minimizing the negatives?

Said in a more specific way: can I use Twitter in a way that facilitates content discovery, more conversation, and better thinking while avoiding (or at least being aware of) its dangers?

And so it goes for all technology.

What is the optimal role for technology to play in the life of a thinker?

For anyone like you and me who is serious about becoming a better thinker, this is one of the defining questions of our time. 

The smart phone was a tipping point, putting immensely powerful and connected computers into all of our pockets, and the genie will not ever be put back into the bottle.

Nor should it be.

For thousands and thousands of years, human existence has been defined by our quest to develop new technologies that deliver desired benefits. And this has been a huge net gain for humanity. But it's also brought the accompanying need to manage both the foreseen and unforeseen consequences.

And as technological growth has accelerated over the last 15 years, and will continue to accelerate moving forward, we can expect there to be an increasingly direct relationship between this growth and what can already feel like a constant assault on our collective ability to focus and think clearly.

As thinkers, we have to recognize the positives and the negatives of any technology we're using, and then be intentional about maximizing the former while minimizing the latter.

  • Your phone gives you instant access to every news site in the world ... but also extracts a cognitive toll just by being in your pocket.
  • Your computer gives you the ability to connect virtually with anyone in the world ... but at the potential expense of ignoring your neighbors who live nearby.
  • Your smart TV gives you instant access to more entertainment and education options than you could consume in ten lifetimes ... but also can keep you inside on the couch when you might otherwise go outside on a nice day.

Which brings me to the release of version 3.0 of the THINKERS App -- an advancement in note-taking technology meant to maximize the utility of an app while minimizing or even eliminating the drawbacks.

Why a company dedicated to better thinking built a smart phone app

Seems like an odd choice, doesn't it?

I've spent countless paragraphs in this newsletter over the last year-plus urging you to put down your phone and instead grab a notebook and pick up a pen. So why would I now tempt you with another app that will draw your eyes toward the bright backlight of your phone?


Because the THINKERS App was designed specifically to leverage the elements of smart phone technology that can help you think better while minimizing the distractions that can harm your thinking.

We discussed this in detail in the THINKERS Manifesto podcast.

And there are three main reasons why the new-and-improved THINKERS App will help you become a new-and-improved thinker:

  1. You'll be emboldened to use pen and paper more.
  2. You'll never forget another good idea again.
  3. You'll never lose another good idea again.

Let's break each one down:

1. You'll be emboldened to use pen and paper more.

If you download and get into a new note-taking app, you might think you'd use pen and paper less. Not when the app was designed from the ground-up to be paper-first.

And this really matters.

One of the most common reasons I hear for why people don't use pen and paper to record their thoughts is that they want a digital copy. So why shouldn't they just go digital-first and eliminate the middle man?

That's fine. For some people it's preferable.

But most people think better -- clearer, more focused, and with better recall -- when they use pen and paper. So you're almost surely losing something by tapping away at a tiny keyboard (where distraction is just a notification away) instead of experiencing the brain-to-hand connection of writing.

We designed the THINKERS App to make capturing notebook pages easy, whether it's our own THINKERS Notebook or any other kind of notebook.

Notebook capture is front and center. This is the most important purpose of the app.

Heck, with the Quick Capture widget, it's literally a two-tap process from your home screen to capture a notebook page and have your digital copy stored for future reference -- with no keyboard required.

And not only is it stored on your phone, but you can share it with anyone and get their feedback on it. The idea may be born in your notebook, but it lives in your app.

Freed from the need to think it's an either/or proposition, more people can go the pen and paper route without fearing the inefficiency ... because there is no inefficiency.

2. You'll never forget another good idea again.

One of the other common reasons I hear for why people don't use pen and paper to record ideas is that sometimes a pen and paper just isn't feasible.

And I have zero counter-argument to this. It's 100 percent true.

Some of the places where our subconscious kicks into overdrive and we do our best thinking don't lend themselves well to pulling out paper and pen when inspiration strikes:

  • In the car
  • On a walk
  • Working out
  • Washing dishes
  • Taking a shower

So any app that purports to help you think better needs to have a solution for these moments too.

This is what was missing from the first generation of the THINKERS App. For those who upgrade to the premium version of the app, it's not missing anymore.

  • On a walk and inspired by the landscaping of a neighbor? Take a photo note.
  • In the car and struck with the perfect concluding line for the proposal you're writing? Record an audio note.
  • Touring a house and want to share the experience with your significant other? Record a video note.
  • Want a digital record of important documents that is transcribed for searchability? Take a document note.
  • At a meeting and want to share the whiteboard with other members of your team? Take a whiteboard note.

And yes, for you new iOS 14 converts, there is a Quick Capture widget for all of these capture types too.

Why do these additional capture types matter?

Because we live in a world now where so many human activities are being automated away. This means your ability to thrive is directly tied to your ability to have good ideas and do something with them.

But what good is the good idea you had on your walk if it doesn't make it back home and never gets shared? The THINKERS App helps you do both.

3. You'll never lose another good idea again.

Quick recap ...

Through the first two reasons, the THINKERS App is helping you come up with better ideas because 1) you're spending more time with pen and paper, and 2) you're recording more ideas because you're always just two taps away from getting it out of your head and into your phone.

But what good are all of these ideas and documents if you can't locate them when you need them?

We fixed that.

  • Want to reflect on the journal entry you made a year ago when you faced a similar problem to one you're facing now? That will take a while to find ... unless you've digitized your journal into searchable text so you can find it in seconds.
  • Have you ever tried locating a photo from six months ago in your photo roll? It's doable, but it takes longer than it should. A customizable folder structure and auto-tagging powered by machine learning fixes it. (And the app's location awareness can really help here.)
  • Remember the audio note from earlier that includes the perfect closing line for your proposal? Would you rather have to listen-type, listen-type, listen-type to transcribe it, or just copy/paste from the searchable text?

An ideas app is only going to be as useful as its ability to help you retrieve your ideas as quickly as possible when you need them. This is a core functionality of the new THINKERS App, and 98% of it is automated.

Add it all up, and we believe that the THINKERS App is the quintessential companion for the serious thinker. 

The THINKERS App doesn't exist to hijack and monetize your attention, which is where technology often gets in the way of good thinking.

Instead, the THINKERS App exists to be one trustworthy tap away when you need it to capture, retrieve, or share an idea. It exists to help you make better thinking routine. 

So please try it. We're really proud of it.

This latest version of the THINKERS App is the result of a full year of dedicated, daily work to deliver an app that actually follows through on its promise to help you think better.

A lot of technology actively works against you doing your best thinking. We're excited to be one of the exceptions to that all-too-common paradigm.

Click here to learn more about the app.

For those who are ready to download it and get going:

  • If you already have the THINKERS App on your phone, you just need to update it the latest version and log in.
  • If you don't have the THINKERS App yet, search for it in the App Store or get it at our website.

And if you have any questions about it, let me know.

Now let's move on to a quick update from the THINKERS Workshop and then this week's related links.

If you missed yesterday's webinar with Alan Jacobs, watch the replay here

Among the topics we discussed:

  • Why our social relationships have such a massive impact on how we think ... and the challenges and opportunities this presents.
  • Why it's usually disingenuous when we say someone should start "thinking for themselves."
  • How to find the right kind of people to help you think better.
  • The insidious power of Inner Rings.
  • Our growing propensity to view people as the "Repugnant Cultural Other," and what to do about it.
  • What role should emotions play in our thinking?
  • Where is the balance between being open minded and holding firmly onto foundational beliefs?
  • The importance of being skeptical about our own motives and generous toward the motives of others.
  • What is the impact of cancel culture?
  • Is Alan as optimistic now about our ability to improve our thinking as he was when he published How to Think?

Then next week, on Wednesday, October 7th, we'll have our third meeting of the THINKERS Book Club to discuss How to Think. The first two have produced fun, insightful discussions, and I'm sure this will be no different.

Want to join the THINKERS Workshop?
The THINKERS Workshop costs $99.99 per year (or $9.99 per month) to be a member. If you own a THINKERS Notebook, then you get in free. If you haven't activated your free account, just reply to this email and let me know so I can send you the special link.
Now on to this week's links ...

How to be more creative because of technology, not in spite of it


Not every piece of tech will inspire you or spark your creativity, so you’ll have to spend time learning which technology tools would work best for you. For instance, you may find that TED Talks spark your curiosity and get you to ask interesting questions, or maybe you’ll discover that using headphones to create ambient noise helps you concentrate on the task at hand and think more creatively.

If you’re not sure what tools, apps or resources would best fit your needs, start by following tech influencers on Twitter, reading leading tech blogs like Mashable, Gizmodo and ZDNet, and taking advantage of programs or apps with free trials.

Read: 8 Ways to Boost Your Creativity With Technology (informED)

Think more about how technology impacts your thinking


The key is to define why and how we’re using what we’re using because unless we stop to clearly define the purpose of our usage before plugging in, the distractions that exist online can stop us from doing the work we want and need to do.

Watch: How To Use Technology Better in Your Learning (MetaLearn)

Be careful what mental activities you outsource to technology


You can’t expand your mind without some intellectual heavy-lifting.

There are tools that help humans to do that lifting. I recently met a teacher in Finland who uses fairly simple technology – such as Google Sheets and vlogs - to deliver content in his classroom. He casts his role as a coach to give pupils feedback on their abilities of perseverance, creativity and co-operation. The tech is in the background, being careful to leave the thinking to the students and teacher.

Read: How technology can help your brain work smarter (Time)
Quote of the week

Computers are useless.  They can only give you answers.”

-- Pablo Picasso

3 Ways to Exercise More Patience

3 Ways to Exercise More Patience | THINKERS Notebook

This week, I have a special treat for you: an essay from THINKERS founder Sean Jackson. 

On our recent team call last week, we were lamenting how difficult it is to be patient while Apple reviews the next generation of the THINKERS App. (Learn more about it here on Product Hunt.)

So I suggested to Sean that he write about it.

The rest of this section is from Sean, then I'll be back after with some links about how to be patient ... especially when it's really, really hard to do so.

Patience is hard


Of all the virtues, this is the one I struggle with the most. 

I become anxious while waiting. My emotions become inflamed. Worry sets in. 

Sound familiar?

I think a lot of us struggle with being patient. 

We live in a world with technology that allows us to find and do almost anything with the touch of a button. What took our grandparents days or weeks to accomplish can now be instantly achieved. 

But being patient is a core attribute of being a THINKER. 

Thinkers appreciate the value that time brings to our ability to understand, evaluate, and act on our ideas.  

And like any skill, patience requires practice.

Unfortunately, our modern world makes it hard to practice patience. We want results now because we are surrounded by messages and tools that promise us results if we act now.

So in a world that creates expectations of immediate results, how do we practice patience?

It starts, like most skills, with exercise -- the mental type, not the physical type (though physical exercise tends to help every brain- and thinking-related).

But before I share ideas to help you improve your ability to be patient, I want to share the story of an event that is putting my ability to be patient to the test.

Waiting on the gatekeeper

As I write this, we are waiting for Apple to approve the next release of our THINKERS App.

As many of you know, this is a major upgrade to the way you can capture and collaborate on ideas using your phone.

For years we have worked toward the vision manifested in this new app. This has required countless hours and significant resources expended to bring this new premium product to market.

And now it's ready!

Except ...

Now we have to wait for Apple to approve it. 

Every app you download requires someone from Apple (or Google) to approve it. And while 90% of the time this process is completed in less than 48 hours, for the other 10% of apps the review process can go on for weeks or even months.

We submitted the app for review on September 10th and are still awaiting approval. And no, Apple doesn’t tell you why there is a delay. 

We are highly confident it is not related to the code or the App Store details, since those are quickly reviewed and rejected if not to standard.

Thus, we wait ... and wonder.

Needless to say, my patience – the one thing I struggle with the most – is tested.

So, what to do?

Well, it’s time to start exercising – our patience that is. 

And like most exercises, we need to do REPs:


  • Redirect
  • Entertain
  • Plan and prepare

3 ways to improve your patience

#1 Redirect your energy. 

Find small tasks that you have absolute control over and do them. Now is the perfect time, because time is what you have.

Take the time to clean out your closet, or paint your room, or organize your emails. There are many things in your life you have control over that, for whatever reason, you have delayed in addressing.

So take your pent-up energy and put it toward a small task that you can reasonably complete and that requires nothing more than your energy and effort.

#2 Entertain yourself. 

In the second episode of the THINKERS Manifesto, I talk about emotional circuit breakers: ways to disengage our emotions around an issue by finding other activities that entertain us. 

Find a book to read or a game you like to play. Maybe go on a short camping trip or a long hike.

Whatever will help you achieve a positive emotion outside of the issue you are dealing with. 

#3 Plan and Prepare.  

Let’s be honest: it’s hard to not spend time ruminating on all the “what ifs” as you are waiting. But how you ruminate matters.

If you just spend time thinking about all the “what ifs” in your head, you will inevitably create more negative emotions that will impede your ability to think clearly.

So, write them down. You should have a notebook and pen handy. 

Try a decision tree, which is a proven model for helping you understand the relationship between actions and consequences. 

By writing down the event and mapping out the potential outcomes, you will find comfort through understanding the different scenarios that may happen.

And here is one tactic that will help.

As you map out your decision tree, add dates to the events. And don’t be optimistic; put dates down that may at this point seem extreme.

Why? Because it will help you manage your understanding of time and add a sense of certainty to an uncertain situation. 

And if you really want to be prepared, add a probability to the event and date occurring. Incorporating probability estimates to actions and dates is a proven method to help you emotionally and intellectually plan for the outcome.

So as you exercise your patience, remember to do your REPs: Redirect, Entertain, and Plan.

And speaking of being patient…

Patience in the time of a pandemic

The other day I spoke with a friend of mine about the Covid-19 pandemic. He laminated the fact that there is no date certain when this pandemic will end. 

Instead we are left with a nebulous idea of it "ending," based on the uncertainties of the future.

I understood his feelings. 

For me, I estimate that there is a 64% chance that we will see some form of remediation to the pandemic in the US by the end of 2021. 

While it’s hard to estimate given the large number of elements that would need to be implemented, I am preparing myself that we will need to deal with the immediate effects of this pandemic for another 15-18 months.

And in the meantime, I will make sure to fix a few things around the house that I have neglected and start reading some of the books recommended by the THINKERS Workshop Book Club.

Basically, I will be doing my REPs as I await the end of the plague in the US. 

Our lives are filled with obstacles that we don’t control and require us to be patient. It’s hard. 

But THINKERS know that time is not something we can control. What we can control is how we respond to time, and hopefully a few REPs will build your strength to endure.

Thanks for reading.

-- Sean

Now on to this week's links ...

A more patient approach to navigating change


Through it all, the journey of patience is rooted in knowing that our current reality inevitably gives way to change. But change won't always happen when we think it should, and patience with ourselves comes from accepting that there are things we can control and things we can't. And though we must make diligent efforts to keep pushing the boundaries of our awareness and to deepen our ability to rest comfortably in the present moment, how fast we develop isn't up to us.

Read: Why Patience Can Actually Improve Decision Making (Huff Post)

What makes people more likely to practice patience?


“This change was so subtle that most people didn’t realize anything was different, yet it changed almost instantly how people made their choice,” said Eric Johnson, the Norman Eig Professor of Business and director of the Center for the Decision Sciences at Columbia Business School. “More importantly, it changed what they chose: If they were encouraged to compare the options, they became more patient.”

That manipulation, however, altered their choices. Participants who were assigned to search comparatively were more patient than those who were assigned to search integratively, regardless of how they searched before.

Watch: How You Make Decisions Can Affect Your Patience (Carnegie Mellon)

Gratitude can make you more patient


“We found that gratitude increases people’s self control, and it increases their ability to wait,” says DeSteno. “[When] you cultivate gratitude in your life, it’s like a self-control buffer. It helps you more frequently be ready to resist temptation and do the right thing, whatever that right thing may be.”

The trick, according to DeSteno, is to not always focus on the biggest things in your life that you’re thankful for. “If you think about the same thing every day you are going to eventually habituate to it,” he says. Instead, focus on smaller things, like a nice favor someone did for you.

Read: Here's an Easy Way to Become More Patient (Time)


Quote of the week

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in your mind.”

-- David G. Allen